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When is a skill "mastered"?

Discussion in 'Advanced Scuba Discussions' started by Wookie, May 20, 2013.

  1. maniago

    maniago PADI Pro

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Mid-Atlantic (MD)
    Uh, except that we are talking the training environs here....

    ---------- Post added May 23rd, 2013 at 04:03 PM ----------

    Shack. This thread has become a beer conversation, arguing nuances vice reality of todays OW training (and all of the associated gnashing of teeth and hand-wringing that goes with it)
  2. dbulmer

    dbulmer DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: UK,Windsor
    "When do you consider your students have mastered the skill? Or, as a diver, when do you feel you have mastered the skill. I put this in Advanced Scuba Discussions so that divers could comment too."

    As a diver I defined what I feel is mastery.
  3. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    But you're not failing them for not hovering... you're failing them for not being able to clear their mask in a "reasonably comfortable, fluid and repeatable manner as would be expected of a diver at that certification level." Today I had two students in the pool and asked them to swim the 25 meter length while taking their mask off and then replacing it without stopping and maintaining neutral buoyancy. Yesterday we had done the skill off of Scuba only and they were required to clear the mask at least twice on one breath. The brother was able to do it five times on his second attempt. Awesome. But today, we got in and swam around for about ten minutes before I started new skills. Rather than work up to this skill I just told them what I expected. He probably removed and cleared his mask ten times. She did it over a dozen times. It was their first attempt at depth. So, just how hard is this? If a student has to sit/kneel on the bottom then they are obviously not comfortable enough to meet the PADI (or any agency's) standard. A PADI instructor can and should require this of their students without violating PADI standards or be accused of adding any requirement to the class.

    It's all about supervisory styles. I worked in automotive for about 30 years. About half were as a mechanic and the other half as a manager. One of my managers once told me that there was no such thing as a bad mechanic: just bad service managers. IOW, employees operated at or just below acceptable levels set by their supervisors. If you set the bar low enough, you had a bunch of crappy mechanics. If you set the bar high enough, you were incredibly busy because those same mechanics operated at the level you set and customers loved it. In my last job as a service manager for Goodyear, I often had Akron (HQ) call me asking how I got month after month of 20% increases. We went over three years like that and they just had never seen that happen. I told them that I treated my customers and employees as friends. I told my customers the truth and never tried to oversell them. I also told my technicians the truth and expected that they treat me in the same friendly, professional manner. Before I left, we were the largest Goodyear in the world. Oh yeah, the 20% increases stopped the month after I left. The store ceased being the world's largest Goodyear within six months and over ten years later, they are producing less service than when I was there. Be a great supervisor and expect the very best of your students. They deserve it!
  4. RJP

    RJP Scuba Media & Publications

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: New Jersey
    Andy, I keep going back to the context/question of wondering why you are looking at this issue in terms of using the expectation of a "better than standards" skill as a reason to FAIL students. Do we teach students in order to find ways to fail them, or are we looking to pass them? Again, I can't see a student calling PADI and complaining "RJP made me a better diver than the standards require" as long as I trained him to meet higher standards.

    As someone mentioned above "we ain't talking rocket science here." If I'm trying a student who is going to do wall dives in the Cayman Islands, where the bottom may well be 1,000ft... I wouldn't sign off if they need to kneel on the bottom to clear a mask or find their reg. I'm going to let the know this up front, and then train them accordingly, until they CAN meet such a standard.
  5. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    Pete/RJP - we are talking at cross-purposes.

    It's a case of training versus assessment. We can train divers in neutral buoyancy... and I strongly agree that we should. However, I am highlighting an issue with PADI standards that limits how we assess skills.

    In particular, that PADI presents skill tuition in a very isolated manner. It assesses skills in that same isolated manner. That manner is not consistent with many of the definitions of 'mastery' presented in this thread - that the application of a skill in realistic context is what matters.

    PADI presents each skill individually, in isolation. That skill is explained, demonstrated and then repeated by each student. Instructors are required to assess 'mastery' in that skill, before progression can (should) continue. Instructors are not permitted to deviate from (above or below) the performance standards for each individual skill - skills that are presented individually/in isolation. They may not impose additional performance standards other than what is defined explicitly in the instructor manual for the given skill.

    A student might be asked to perform 'Skill X' either kneeling or hovering. That's fine. However, if they could not complete the skill appropriately because of the additional requirement of being in a hover, then the instructor couldn't fail that 'Skill X'... because more than 'Skill X' was being assessed.

    Otherwise, what's to stop me adding higher requirements? Mask removal/replacement whilst deploying DSMB? If I 'felt' that was realistic application (as others feel hover is). The list goes on... until we reach absurd scenarios, where instructors might expect unrealistic performance from students. That's why PADI have global standards and strict performance requirements that instructors may not assess beyond...

    That said... I believe 'mastery' is about realistic application, appropriate for the level. It shouldn't be about isolation of skills in an unrealistic context.
  6. rameus

    rameus Dive Travel Professional

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    sounds like these are the two questions to answer.
    When has the student mastered the skill? In my opinion this would be a quality standard you have to set FIRST as a dive shop (and then obviously enforce it) and most importantly you have to set this standard for yourself. To set the level of training as high as you would expect it to be "normally" you as a dive instructor need to be in the position to decline a certification if the requirements are not sufficiently met. This is a rather luxurious situation which you will normally not find when working for a "quota" and therefore your income. However it is certainly worth asking when looking for a new job what the "quality standards" are at the diving operation oyu are thinking of working with.

    When have I mastered a skill? When I feel comfortable performing the skill regardless of my environment and the general situation I am in. No matter if I am drifting out in the blue with a lot of current or if I am close to the reef. A good example for me is the deployment of an SMB. You don't learn this skill in a PADI Open Water class, nevertheless it is a crucial kill you have to know as soon as you get on a liveaboard or a drift dive.

    Again - in my opinion it all comes back to the the level of professionalism shown in a diving operation. One difference between management and daily business: if the instructor fails to teach the Open Water students the skills properly it can have serious consequences! I have seen quite a few diving operations where I would not like to do my first certifications (confined sessions or tune-ups in a cavern 10m/30ft down with a height of 3m/10ft and pretty small sand patches).

  7. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    Deploying an SMB and removing a mask are two separate skills, once of which is not even part of the OW course. An instructor who combines those two entirely separate skills the first time one (or more) of them is done would be doing something that is fundamentally unsound in terms of instructional theory. It happens to be the way my first tech instructor operated regularly, but it is fundamentally unsound. The reason for this in instructional terms is based on the idea of a transfer load. New learning is essentially the application of old learning to new situations with new complications. If the leap to the new complication is too small, the student learns little and is bored. If it is too great, the student will fail. Good instruction manages the transfer load appropriately.

    The PADI program progression you describe is designed with that in mind, adding new complications a little at a time. A partial mask flood is followed by a full mask flood and then mask removal and then mask replacement and then mask replacement combined with a no mask swim. Every element of the no mask swim should have been mastered before those skills are combined.

    You earlier linked to an about.com article by Natalie Gibb about teaching horizontally. That article summarized an article in the PADI professional journal (Undersea Journal) about open water instruction that focuses on an early start to buoyancy instruction. As the principal author of the article she was summarizing, let me remind you about its key points. In such instruction, buoyancy is the first skill addressed. All skills after that are done in horizontal posture while neutrally buoyant. Students go through the exact same progressions you mention, only they do it while neutrally buoyant. By the time they are doing the no mask swim and mask replacement exercise in CW #4, they have done every part of that exercise many times already.

    At what level of skill do we expect them to do this? As has been stressed many times in this thread, at the level expected of a student at that level of development. Do I fail the student whose fins touch the bottom while they are replacing the mask after the no mask swim or while replacing the BCD? Of course not--this is not tech instruction, and the student does not have to have the buoyancy control of a cave diver to succeed. Now, I wonder what I would do if a student said, "I have examined the PADI standards carefully. I have l read ScubaBoard, and people like DevonDiver and DCBC tell me I can insist on doing these skills anchored to the bottom rather than neutrally buoyant like my classmates. I insist that I be allowed to do this!" I suppose I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it. So far students just do what I tell them to do without any fuss.

    Finally, let me remind you yet again, that
    • the article mentioned earlier was published in the official PADI professional journal, the official publication that PADI sends to its instructors around the world;
    • the article was co-written by Karl Shreeves of PADI, and one of his contributions to the article was the statement that if skills are introduced on the knees, they should be done neutrally later, hopefully within the same training session;
    • and a member of the PADI staff told me (and his contact information is available on the Instructor to Instructor forum if you want to check) that the skills in the latter portion of the CW dives should be done neutrally.

    As for the about.com article you cited above, I think I will talk with Natalie about a follow up article on this topic when we dive together in a couple of weeks. Maybe she can clarify this.
  8. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    PADI presents no skills. The instructor presents the skill. However, the instructor can present and assess the skills either kneeling on the bottom or in mid water. They might even blend the two, but in the end the instructor says that they either have or have not mastered the skill in the situation of their choice. If you couch your skill as having added a requirement, then you are not teaching in line with PADI. If you couch your skills as being how the skills should normally be done, then it's no big deal. Like any other agency, PADI is allowing the instructor to have the final say about whether or not the student has mastered a particular skill. PADI does not require that skills be only assessed while kneeling. They allow it for the moment, but I think we are about to see even that change.

    I really like John's definition of "mastered". Even though I will never tell a student they have mastered anything, I believe it best represents the spirit in which PADI as well as other agencies have used it. Me? I use the term "competent". That implies that not can they do the skill, but they can do it while being neutral, that they know when to use the skill, when to avoid using the skill and do so when appropriate. It's great a student can share air with me. Will they do it quickly, smoothly and when I am giving the proper command? Are they even paying enough attention to know that I am even giving the signal? All these demonstrate competency and that becomes more important as you string skills together.
    TMHeimer likes this.
  9. TMHeimer

    TMHeimer Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dartmouth,NS,Canada(Eastern Passage-Atlantic)
    [QUOTE=boulderjohn;, Now, I wonder what I would do if a student said, "I have examined the PADI standards carefully. I have l read ScubaBoard, and people like DevonDiver and DCBC tell me I can insist on doing these skills anchored to the bottom rather than neutrally buoyant like my classmates. I insist that I be allowed to do this!" I suppose I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it. So far students just do what I tell them to do without any fuss.


    I was hoping someone more experienced than me would bring this up. Yes, I think this could happen but also agree that it probably never will. I don't know if that's good or not. DevonD asks "What's to stop me from adding higher requirements"? Probably very little, since as pointed out, students will probably just do whatever is asked of them. Good or bad? One old example: Students must either complete 200 meters swimming or 300 with m/f/s. Who chooses-instructor or student? I know, "the instructor does" was the consensus interpretation of the standard. But the instructor could say--"Do 200 meters using front crawl only and within a specific time". This would break 2 standards and the students wouldn't know. Has there ever been a student who found and read the exact PADI standards?
  10. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    Some quotes from the PADI Instructor Manual:

    "Conduct Confined Water Dives in sequence and do not shift skills from one confined water dive to another".

    Says to me that PADI don't want skills taught in a different order than prescribed in the manual. That would include 'combining' skills.

    Confined Water Dive 3 Performance Requirements

    10. Descend using the five-point method.
    11. Remove, replace and clear a mask.
    12. Breathe without a mask for at least one minute.
    13. Disconnect the low pressure hose from the inflator in shallow water (either underwater or at the surface).
    14. Respond to air depletion by signaling “out-of-air” in water too deep in which to stand.
    15. Ascend using the five-point method.

    Dive 4 Performance Requirements

    1. Swim without a mask for at least 15 metres/50 feet, then replace and clear the mask.
    2. Hover using buoyancy control for at least 30 seconds, without kicking or sculling.
    So...forgive me if I am not a genius... but 'how' exactly do you assess the student on a hovering mask remove/replace when you haven't even "taught" hover until the dive after the mask remove/replace is introduced?

    If a student "failed" that mask remove/replace skill... because the instructor insisted upon neutral buoyancy (a skill yet to be taught/assessed), then that student should have every right to be upset. Furthermore, they'd have a right to report a standards violation to PADI.

    The performance standards are stated clearly. They are what the instructor teaches...and assesses. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I'm not agreeing with that - just pointing it out.

    Please...keep arguing... here's what the PADI 'Guide To Teaching' says:

    PADI standards.jpg

    So... please... tell me that I am "victimizing" PADI... "...while in a seated/kneeling position in shallow water.." Thank you...
    DCBC, tracydr and BDSC like this.

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